In his Reith lectures, Grayson Perry called artists “Pilgrims on the Road to Meaning”. At New Blood Art, we wanted to gain insight into our artists personal roads to meaning, so we asked them some questions. Here are some of their answers:
What was the best piece of advice you were given?
I met a friend’s dad at a party who was visiting from France who was also a painter, during my second year of University and I ended up chatting to him. As a fellow painter it was easier to explain what sort of things I was painting about which was about the impact of Alzheimer’s, loss and memory in a very emotive visual sense. He had in his own life experienced great loss, and understood how important it is to be able to express this experience through painting. His advice to me was to let people form their opinions and criticisms about my work but just to keep going, to always find whatever it is you want and need to paint.
The best piece of practical advice I was given was to use many pots of turps or thinner for each colour, so as not to ‘muddy’ my colours and to use glass as a palette. This advice was given to me by Rebecca Fortnum on my BA course back in 1994-1997. My current MA tutor, Miranda Whall’s best bit of advice is to trust in my process, and my intuition. To allow it to be and be confident that everything I have done beforehand has led to that moment.
Both tutors have had an invaluable influence on my creative development.
I am going to pass on four:
Always watch your angles (photo or canvas).
Always take a step back physically.
Put your canvas upside down to see if everything still stands.
And waste – a lot!
To stick with what you’re best at, persevere / believe in yourself and not to feel you must follow the crowd.
I once saw a film about the Catelonian painter Antoni Tapies, where he was asked what advice he would give young artists and he said: “Most importantly: try to grow spiritually, the practical side will come with practice”. I live and paint by that.
Two things seem to come to mind. In my 1st year at Edinburgh College of Art, 1992, a long time ago now, I think it was George Donald, a painter and printmaker who taught then, was with me in a painting class. I liked George, we talked a lot about books and Japan I seem to remember. Anyway, he asked me what it was I was trying to do, what it was I was working on. I had a piece of charcoal and tentatively sketched an idea on a scrap of paper. George grabbed the charcoal from me and grabbed a green paper towel and boldly swept the charcoal across the paper towel while declaring ‘an artist knows what he wants’ and left me with a confident version of my drawing. He was theatrical, but I think he was on to something. Fast forward 16 years and I am at Central St Martins feeling incredibly out of my depth after a long absence from all things art, and Alex Landrum said something to me during a crit, along the lines of ‘You’ll never know it all, never know all that is out there, you just have to have confidence in what you do know’ and as simple as that sounds, in an environment of so many great creatives and thinkers, really serious intellect there, it was great to know that what I knew was enough. That is how I am taking that anyway!
The best piece of advice given to me was by a university tutor, who told me that a tutor passed it on to him and he said this: always ask yourself ‘am I being honest’, simple and powerful.
My tutor always said it was important to ‘have fun’. As a raging pessimist I dismissed this each time he mentioned the word. Yet, I soon began to realise the importance of this word ‘fun’. My ‘best’ and most promising results came from experimenting and letting my hair down. It’s important to be open minded and let your creative practice control you, rather than the other way around. You never know where the creative journey might end up!
You must sell the piece of work you love the most, that you don’t ever want to part with. Otherwise you might not take the adventure further. (Tutor at art school after I had graduated).
Someone once told me it was okay to fail and that nothing was wasted. This does help free and loosen things up. Also ‘just keep going’ is another helpful piece of advice.
Once I was complaining with a fellow artist, one that I really admire and whose friendship makes me very proud, about not being able to work every day, not being always inspired or even in the mood to create. The advice he gave to me will stick to my soul forever; he said: “Just think about plants and trees; they do not give flowers of fruits every day, some of them do it barely once a year. But this does not mean that those flowers aren’t beautiful and those fruits tasteful”. Simple and effective.